Residents in the predominantly state housing suburb of Glen Innes are aghast at plans for high-density housing, fearing it will be a social disaster, bring more crime and reduce private property values.
Tamaki College principal David Hodge said unless fundamental problems were addressed first, Glen Innes would become the "worst urban slum in New Zealand".
This view is echoed among 586 public submissions on Auckland City Council's "Liveable Communities" plan to rezone large tracts of one of the city's poorest suburbs for three- and four-storey housing.
"I for one am sickened by the fact that the neighbourhood I so love and appreciate will, likely as not, turn into a residential fiasco, a ghetto, a slum," said Glen Innes resident Jannie van Hees.
Another resident, Sherie Wikaira, said: "On my street there is one area where a lot of housing is put close together. It is the messiest, noisiest area on the whole street and you want me to say 'yes' to more of this. No thank you."
Public concern about intensification within a 10-minute walk of Glen Innes town centre comes amid controversy over a regional masterplan to squeeze half a million Aucklanders into mostly apartments and terraced homes by 2050.
It follows a losing battle by planners and politicians to convince Aucklanders - worried about leaky buildings and some recent apartment developments - that user-friendly, high-density, low-cost housing is possible.
In nearby Panmure, residents spent three years negotiating a "Liveable Communities" plan with the council for higher-density housing, only to have the Auckland Regional Council take the council to court for not cramming enough people into the suburb.
The Tamaki Edge Constituent Group, set up by the council to monitor local plans, said blanket rezoning for most of Glen Innes was excessive and premature.
The group was not opposed to the concept of residential 8 zoning of three- and four-storeys but said "it remains an as-yet untried and unproven form of zoning, particularly in an area of intensive state housing like Glen Innes".
The group said Housing NZ had told the community that its Talbot Park trial intensification project would provide a good mix of tenants, then learned it would house those with the greatest social needs.
"The location of large numbers of people in need of extensive social support into one vast area can never make for a healthy and viable community," the group said in a public submission.
Several submitters called on Housing New Zealand, which owns two-thirds of the properties in the redevelopment zone, to sell some of its properties.
Other submissions said stormwater, sewerage and roading infrastructure was insufficient for the existing housing density and must be upgraded before more housing was approved.
Mr Hodge said he had been told by Metrowater staff that little could be done about sewage overflows at Tamaki College because the complete Glen Innes system needed an "overhaul".
"The rezoning of the area would see such extreme pressure on the present infrastructure that we cannot envisage the school remaining a safe environment for the students," he said.
The plan broke many of the principles of Liveable Communities, which stated that "strong communities means areas will be cohesive, supportive and diverse communities where people have a sense of belonging and respect for neighbours".
"High-density, low socio-economic communities are sociological disasters," Mr Hodge said. "They are not 'cohesive, supportive and diverse' but quite the opposite."
Housing NZ and the regional council support the plan change, which also includes rezoning some lower-density streets for slightly greater density to provide a buffer between high- and low-density housing; and rezoning the former Tamaki Girls' College site to include four- and five-storey housing.
Housing NZ, which has not maximised housing density on its $45 million Talbot Park project, has expressed concern about allowing three-storey developments on small sites. It is also worried about rules to stop hanging out washing in public.
The Tamaki Community Board will hold a public meeting in the Glen Innes Community Centre at 6 o'clock tonight to discuss concerns about the plan changes.